After writing my previous post about Hamilton Walker’s Steakhouse and the history behind it, I sent a message through social media requesting an invite to the Grand Opening. I have done this before, sometimes with no response, but this time that was not the case. A few weeks passed and I went on my daily routine of checking messages and working my social media only to find on one particularly exciting day, that my message had indeed gotten a response. This is how I met Brian Margulis, one of the men behind Walker Hamilton’s Steakhouse. We set up a time to meet at the restaurant location and he promised to give me the inside scoop. I remember being so excited that I yelled out loud and my 1 year old looked up at me with a puzzled look on his sweet chubby face. I was so thrilled! This is why I started my blog I thought! To give you guys the inside scoop on the restaurant scene that is booming here in Champaign-Urbana. I’m so happy to have the chance to share this restaurant’s evolution from start to finish.
I met Brian on a cold and rainy Friday afternoon. I approached the building and saw that the windows have now been covered with white paper. I felt giddy inside knowing that in a few seconds I would get to see inside this historic place.
The door opened wide and Brian met me with a warm smile and kind introduction. We began by talking about what brought he and his project manager to Champaign. When they were approached by investors to develop a new restaurant, the fact that Brian and his project manager had children in the University here, sealed the deal. They would be working on a restaurant they were both excited about and they got to spend more time with their kids. As a parent myself I know that is a win-win.
Once they decided to return to Champaign they had the task of finding a space. They found a perfect location at 201 N. Neil and not long after found that it had a rich history. It had once been Champaign’s one and only Opera House, Walker’s Opera House. After a devastating fire it was renovated and turned into the Hamilton Hotel, hence the name Hamilton Walker’s. After the location was nailed down they turned their attention to the food. What they found was that our downtown is in great need of a proper steakhouse. They are right! Not only will this restaurant have a great location and exciting history, they will offer top quality beef and superstar service. Brian explained that “the guests should feel like a king and queen when they walk through the door”. The food will be locally sourced and they will have top quality Black Angus beef that will be sourced within an 150 mile radius of Champaign. They will also offer craft beer and cocktails.
Hamilton Walker’s will also hire locally. Brian and his team are all about giving back to the community. They plan on getting involved in local fundraising and charities. Okay, now onto the grand tour!
First thing I noticed was the sheer massiveness of the space, it’s nearly 8,000 square feet. It will be perfect to house the 40’s inspired old Hollywood, Baroque style that they’re going for.
There will be beautifully tufted crescent shape booths as you walk down the middle of the space. The wall to the left will be lined with new windows. They had boards laid on the floor to show where the new bar will be constructed.
As you walk in the front door the bar will be to your left. It will feature a window opening out onto a seating area on the south side of the building.
There will be outdoor seating in the front, side and back of the restaurant. On the front of the building there will be a beautifully lit up marquee sign that pays homage to Walker’s Opera House.
The most exciting part of the tour for me was the basement. As I walked down the stone steps I felt as though I was walking through to another time. I was about to see a piece of Champaign’s history. All of the original brick from the 1800’s is exposed and will be restored. The room itself is very long and has stunning brick posts.
Brian showed me an original concrete step that will be turned into a stage. Why you ask? They will be bringing in local musicians to play live for special events and possibly even a supper club. I could barely contain my joy! I am really looking forward to seeing the basement take shape. It definitely sounds like my type of hang out.
As the tour concluded and it was time to part ways, I felt so honored to be included in this process. I have always dreamed of seeing a new restaurant be created from beginning to completion. It seems, thanks to the kindness and hospitality of Brian Margulis of Creative Hospitality Associates, that my dream is going to come true. I’m elated to be able to share this experience with you guys. There will be much more to come!